Sisters share insights on raw foods

By Caroline Connors
February 18, 2009
The Beverly Review

Beverly resident Mary Duggan has worn a lot of different hats in her adult life, including writer, university professor, and interior designer. She was known as “the doctor” in college because of her interest in healing and wellness and, these days, could even be called the Paula Deen of raw foods.

Like the gregarious Food Network star, Mary is spreading the gospel of homemade food as an important part of life — but instead of dishing out platters of Southern fried chicken and biscuits, she and her sister Annie Duggan, also of Beverly, are serving up delicious, uncooked vegan specialties like walnut pate and banana pudding parfait.

Already established as entrepreneurs and owners of The Rose Cottage, a local business devoted to alternative health and healing, Annie and Mary are sharing their knowledge and training in “living foods” with a series of classes they’re teaching called “TasteLife® with the Duggan Sisters.” The classes will take place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Beverly’s Pantry, 1907 W. 103rd St., on Feb. 23 and March 9, March 16 and March 23.

“We’re training people that food is meant to be eaten right out of the ground,” Mary said. “Until Food Network calls we have to get our message out there the old-fashioned way — a dozen souls at a time. And Shirley Makinney’s generosity, vision and kindness make it so do-able and beautiful (Makinney donated the space for the classes). This is our life work.”

At their first class on the evening of Feb. 9 in the kitchen at Beverly’s Pantry, the Duggan sisters covered the fundamentals of raw foods and 13 recipes that they said can be made on a daily basis. Equipped with a Vita-Mixer, a high performance blender that, according to Mary, has “the engine of a lawnmower,” the duo seamlessly entertained and informed a group of women while preparing a sampling of breakfast, lunch and dinner foods, including beverages and dessert.

“Annie does the cooking and I gab,” said Mary, who has studied alternative medicine for 25 years and has “devoured” at least 25 books on living foods.

Clad in a traditional chef uniform of white double-breasted coat and puffy white hat, Annie, a certified raw chef, shared snippets of her personal raw food journey while preparing favorite recipes like a green smoothie made from unpeeled apples, half of a whole lime and spinach. After suffering through a prolonged, life-threatening illness, converting to a diet of uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds two years ago not only restored her health, but also helped her lose 50 pounds, boosted her energy level and improved the appearance of her hair and skin, Annie said.

Born and raised in Beverly in a family of 11 siblings, Annie has been so transformed physically that she is sometimes unrecognizable to extended family members who have not seen her since she began subscribing to a raw diet, Mary said. The sisters also credit Annie’s diet with the eradication of cataracts in her eyes and the correction of a thyroid disorder.

The foundation of a raw diet is about maintaining the enzymes in the body, Mary said. Heating food above 115 degrees, roughly the temperature of direct sun on the earth, is believed to destroy the enzymes in food that assist with digestion and absorption.

“Everything is about nutritional value,” she said. “Anything over 115 degrees and you’ve killed the protein, 90 percent of the vitamins and minerals and 100 percent of the enzymes.”

In addition to its physical benefits — which include cleaning the digestive tract, reducing inflammation and detoxifying the body — a raw diet can also lead to enhanced mental clarity and spiritual awareness, Mary said. The ancient Essenes, a spiritual sect living in the Middle East at the time of Christ and the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ate a mostly raw food diet, she said.

“It’s a tremendous turn-on of your system,” Mary said. “Phenomenal things happen to people when they embrace this diet. The rewards are enormous. Raw food is like a dear friend who came to me in a dark moment.”

Included in the $60 price of the class is a booklet with recipes prepared in class, including a “super foods” chocolate shake, cream of tomato soup and mayonnaise-free broccoli salad. The booklet also provides reference information on raw restaurants and stores, cookbooks and frequently used ingredients.

The Duggan sisters, who grow organic vegetables in their garden, use a home composter, shower in filtered water, and market and sell a natural deodorant of their own creation, reject the commonly held notion that raw foodism is expensive and labor intensive. A raw diet costs far less than daily medications and, once a few tricks of the trade have been learned, allows people the time to live their lives as parents, spouses and employees, Mary said.

On top of that, it might also lead to increased popularity at social gatherings.

“If you go to a family party and bring the kale salad—you’ll rock their world,” Mary said.

For more information or to register for a class, contact the Duggan sisters at (773) 341-4246. Additional “TasteLife” classes are also being taught in Oak Park, on the North Shore, and on the city’s North Side at Belmont and Ashland.